Earlier this month we were the first report on the Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign for British filmmaker Shola Amoo’s new film “A Moving Image,” a multimedia laden examination of gentrification, race and culture in Brixton and South London, told from the point-of-view of a young Black female artist who herself is accused of being a symbol of gentrification.
The campaign is getting standout media attention, so we wanted to go past the synopsis point and chat with Amoo to gain a stronger perspective on his further motivations behind making “A Moving Image” and discover what his process of filmmaking involves.
Curtis Caesar John: Congratulations Shola on all the attention your crowdfunding campaign has been receiving.
Shola Amoo: Thank you Curtis, and especially thank you to all the Shadow and Act readers who have contributed to ‘A Moving Image’ or helped spread the word in social media and otherwise as to what we’re working to achieve.
CCJ: I know you’ve had some other media interviews regarding the project, but what else have you been doing to spread the word? And who have been your main supporters so far?
SA: Mainly a lot of talkbacks at community meetings and functions like Take Back the City that have been focusing on gentrification and the ways that London is not necessarily changing for the better. It’s been a lot of work but very gratifying.
The socially conscious and film enthusiast communities have been very supportive of the campaign, but we want even more people to be aware of what this film can do.
CCJ: And what can it do?
SA: Film has the power to be transformative. It can communicate ideas about places you have no idea about and connect to your world. What’s happening economically and socially in London, is the same thing happening in Bed-Stuy and throughout Brooklyn where you are, and in Harlem and San Francisco. But not everyone is aware of that.
CCJ: So we know “A Moving Image” is taking a multimedia approach to telling its story. Can you elaborate on that.
SA: Well, people have been generally quite interested in how we’re doing that. As I’m sure you and your readers know Curtis, when you’re working in independent film, and don’t have a large budget, you have to be more creative and experimental.
The film was originally supposed to be a more traditional narrative, but as I started to go to more meetings and discussions on gentrification, I found those stories extremely potent. So the way the character Nina [played by actress Tanya Fear] goes around questioning neighbors about what’s happening, it mirrored what I was doing. So organically it made sense that these aspects had to be used in the film. [Tanya] had to respond to everything going on in the interviews we got during the Reclaim Brixton rally – the breaking of the windows, the police presence – and we just had to use this to create a documentary/narrative mix.
The performance art aspect of the film is along the lines of the Marina Abramovic and Nigerian artist Jelili Atiku – a zany yet meaningful type of performance that looks at [the community’s] depression and existential crises. Ayo, the performance artist in our film, and Nina clash at first because he’s staunchly anti-gentrification and she is seen as symbol of it.
She’s from Brixton…she doesn’t see herself as part of gentrification, but she also lives in a makeshift loft while Ayo is constantly being evicted and squatting in abandoned or closed buildings.
CCJ: So then your film is also about artists and artist communities?
SA: I’ll say this. Historically, Brixton is a very important place for black political thought and creativity – counter-culture type of vibe. Artists have an odd role within gentrification as when they move in certain areas they make them more popular to people who may not have moved there prior to. But like Nina, they can also tale a widely critical to look at it.
I’m really interested in depicting the black artist experience – capturing the value of black art and the worth of artists of color and the work that they make. There’s constantly the question of whether [black art] is perceived of as value if its not picked up by the dominant society.
But even more questions arise as we’re making a film about an artist who wants to help heal her community, and what she comes up against is will it make a difference to people who are losing their homes?
CCJ: Shola, you have a great artist-minded perspective on the world. What type of art has inspired your view on society?
SA: There’s a great many things. Cinematic-wise, I like Stanley Kubrick and his approach to filmmaking – detailed, precise, and full of lofty ideas. I also like [French filmmaker] Jacques Audiard [who made “A Prophet” 2009]. Music influences me as well. TV on the Radio are very cinematic and I dig the energy they have as a group.
CCJ: Well you have a lot of lofty goals yourself for your filmmaking. To close, is there anything else you aim to achieve with “A Moving Image” and your future films.
SA: You know, what we don’t have here in London are these cool, New York type films where the city is also the character. I want to capture that energy for Brixton…like how “Do the Right Thing,” “Fresh,” and “KIDS” did for New York City.
I am also interested in representation and the use of black images and finding a way to broaden that in a U.K. context outside of stereotypical images. There’s big issues with how film’s with all black casts or black leads are distributed. I want to show the plethora of images of Black people and people of color that you don’t get to see apart from a certain stereotypical thug, gangster, or “poverty porn” context.
Curtis Caesar John is a longtime contributor to Shadow And Act, for which he created the regular feature ‘This Week in Black Television.’ Currently the Film Editor for Bold As Love Magazine, he recently founded the microcinema The Luminal Theater in Brooklyn, NYC. Follow him on Twitter at @MediaManCurt.